A pioneer of the study of adult development and aging, Bernice Levin Neugarten found that there was no one right way for people to grow old. Neugarten began taking college courses as a child and earned an MA in educational psychology from the University of Chicago by twenty-one, then earned her PhD six years later, in 1943. After eight years of raising her children and doing part-time research, she returned to full-time academic work in 1951 and from 1952–1962 led the Kansas City Studies of Adult Life, a groundbreaking, community-based study of middle-age and aging that examined family, work, leisure, and life satisfaction. The study demonstrated that unlike child development, aging didn’t follow either a single common path or an optimum path—there were no benchmarks for being age seventy the way there were for being five. Neugarten also distinguished between the young-old (still physically and socially active) and old-old (more frail). Her work exploded many myths about the elderly and emphasized the importance of tailoring services to the needs of individual elderly people. She became the University of Chicago’s first tenured professor of human development in 1960 and wrote eight books and more than 150 articles on her research.
More on Bernice L. Neugarten
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Bernice L. Neugarten." (Viewed on September 23, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/people/neugarten-bernice>.